Direct flights resumed on Friday between Russia and Georgia amid protests and sharp criticism from the South Caucasus nation’s president, simply over per week after the Kremlin unexpectedly lifted a four-year-old ban regardless of rocky relations.
Georgian police on Friday afternoon dispersed protesters who had gathered at Tbilisi airport to satisfy an Azimuth Airways flight from Moscow, the primary to reach from Russia since July 2019, with indicators and slogans criticizing the Kremlin and what they described as the present Georgian authorities’s pro-Russia course.
Georgia’s pro-Western president, Salome Zourabichvili, who has beforehand clashed with the federal government over mending ties with Moscow, additionally voiced her opposition in a tweet posted on Friday.
“Regardless of the opposition of the Georgian individuals, Russia has landed its unwelcome flight in Tbilisi. No to flights to Russia!,” Zourabichvili stated.
Russian President Vladimir Putin final Wednesday unexpectedly abolished visas for Georgian nationals and lifted the flight ban Moscow unilaterally imposed in 2019 after a wave of anti-Kremlin protests in Georgia.
Putin’s decrees got here a day after leaders of a number of Central Asian and South Caucasus states stood beside him at a navy parade marking the anniversary of Nazi Germany’s defeat in World Warfare II, in what appeared just like the Kremlin searching for to point out that Russia nonetheless had allies and wasn’t utterly remoted.
Following Putin’s decrees, Russia’s International Ministry issued a press release lifting its 2019 advice for Russian residents to keep away from touring to Georgia.
Russia-Georgia relations have been difficult for the reason that Soviet Union’s collapse within the early Nineteen Nineties. The 2 international locations fought a brief struggle in 2008 that ended with Georgia dropping management of two Russia-friendly separatist areas.
Within the aftermath, Tbilisi severed diplomatic ties with Moscow, and the difficulty of the areas’ standing stays a key irritant, at the same time as relations have considerably improved.
After Russia invaded Ukraine final yr, Georgia joined worldwide resolutions condemning the struggle, offered Kyiv with humanitarian assist and took in 1000’s of refugees. Nevertheless, its authorities stopped in need of supplying Ukraine with weapons, citing the necessity to preserve neutrality.
On the similar time, the Black Sea nation of three.7 million individuals grew to become one of many essential locations for Russians fleeing the crackdown and the partial mobilization into the navy that Putin introduced in September 2022.
Zourabichvili final week responded to Putin’s decrees with a tweet calling them “one other Russian provocation.”
“Resuming direct flights and lifting visa ban with Georgia is unacceptable so long as Russia continues its aggression on Ukraine and occupies our territory!,” she stated.
Opposition lawmaker Giorgi Vashadze instructed reporters that Georgia’s pro-Western political events deliberate to carry a rally exterior the parliament constructing on Friday night.
“The present authorities need rapprochement with Russia, however the inhabitants is in opposition to this and is dedicated to the Euro-Atlantic course,” Vashadze stated, referencing Tbilisi’s stalled European Union membership bid and decades-long aspirations to hitch NATO.
Against this, Georgian Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili on Friday stated at a media briefing that restoring direct flights from Russia was the proper factor to do. Garibashvili confused that Tbilisi wouldn’t enable flights by Russian airways sanctioned by the West, however stated that stopping commerce and financial relations with Moscow would “hurt the pursuits of the Georgian individuals.”
The Georgian aviation authority this week licensed two smaller Russian airways, Azimuth Airways and Purple Wings, to launch flights to Tbilisi and Georgia’s second metropolis of Kutaisi.
Vazha Siradze, a Georgian inside ministry official, stated in a press release Friday that six individuals have been detained through the demonstration at Tbilisi airport after allegedly throwing eggs and shouting insults at police.